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The Real Meaning Behind The Title Sequence On American Gods

The trippy, high-concept title sequence is a proud tradition in show business. Its roots reach deep, stretching from the early days of James Bond to Game of Thrones' automaton geography. When it works, it works. Even when it doesn't work, it's fun to try and link up to a Pink Floyd album.

One of the most striking intro sequences in recent memory belongs to Starz's surreal adaptation of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Created by Patrick Clair, the same guy behind the opening titles for Westworld and True Detective, the series of unnerving shots juxtaposes religious imagery with a bacchanal of modern hedonism, technology, and convenience. The images coalesce in the final moments of the 90-second montage, forming a neon totem pole of edgy, sacrilegious visuals.

"The totem features deities inspired by gods across all manner of different religions — but messed up in ways that we found to be interesting, sticky, sort of sexy, challenging, dirty, wrong, but hopefully interesting," Clair told Digital Arts in an interview about his work on the piece. He also made sure to point out that his team "wanted the chance to play with the symbols that are powerful and very sacred, that require an enormous amount of respect in the way you engage with them, but that are also there to be challenged."

And boy, did they ever.

The unflinching weirdness of American Gods' title sequence

Watch the American Gods intro sequence with a curious eye — it's hard not to — and a singular vision starts to present itself: old world beliefs mixed with Western iconography, presented as American kitsch. Medusa's head is now dotted with fiber optic cables. Greek nymphs with glowing red cell phone camera lenses where their eyes should be. Buddha, grinning and glowing red-hot, floats through a rain of pills. Among the provocative imagery, there's a crucified astronaut, described by Clair as the launchpad for the whole intro. "It started there, and then once we know that was something that maybe we could get away with, we went from there to figure out the rest of the gods to add to the totem pole."

More than anything, American Gods' title sequence is there to set a tone. It's metaphor more than anything else. While it hints at characters that viewers can expect to see with its inclusion of Yggdrasil the World Tree, Christian imagery, and so on, it's mostly an artistic interpretation of the show's thesis statement: that once-beloved deities are bent, painted over, and forgotten in the face of American culture. Leprechauns, too.